Well, that sucked. The driver who cut me off on my way to work is an idiot! The abusive management practices are the reason we can’t improve things. If only those workers would care more about their work we might be able to improve quality. Those consultants failed to help us improve things around here. The service here is terrible.

If you pay attention to your thoughts and words, you will find you spend a great deal of your day evaluating. I say this with confidence because we all do. Categorizing things as good or bad, right or wrong. There are many ways in which we evaluate, and unfortunately, none of them are helpful in life.

Evaluating my commute

I spend a great deal of time commuting to downtown Toronto. A drive that would take less than an hour without traffic slowdowns, is usually 2-3 hours or more. I confess I’ve spent a great deal of time evaluating others during many commutes.

The government sucks at providing the infrastructure to make my commute better. The other drivers are self-centred and will put advancing one car length over safety. The transit system sucks because they only provide two trains a day from Kitchener (where I live).

What I’ve come to see is that the only thing all this evaluation of my commute accomplishes is to stress me out. I arrive at my destination drained, with a headache, and upset at the world. In other words, the reality and experience of my commute is all of my choosing.

What happens if I stop evaluating my commute? Stop looking at it as good or bad. What if I just look at the commute as the way it is, rather than a problem for me?

Instead of getting stressed, I’m only looking at it with the question of what’s the optimal way for me to commute today. Driving, train, bus, subway, fly, etc. There are lots of options and when I simply look at them as my choice it’s easier to accept whatever happens along the route.

It is what it is

I’ve spent the majority of my career in leadership positions. From those years and experiences, I could share plenty of stories of success and failures. I would point out though, the simple act of talking about my experiences as success and failure is an evaluation.

I know I’ve always had an impact on my clients. It’s not always the impact I’ve envisioned or hoped for. For some, they didn’t always get to a place I believed they could. However, what if the outcomes are exactly what was meant to happen?

It’s not the aspirational things I had wanted to accomplish! How can the client be happy given they didn’t get where I thought they could? Much like my commute, what if the amount of change that occurs is just what it is meant to be? From my experience when I look at the world this way I am less stressed, I am happier and I am of better service to my clients.

Leading for Change

As a leader, your job is to the create the conditions necessary for your followers to succeed. Sometimes it’s wild success, and at other times the needle only moves slightly. When we evaluate the outcomes, our followers start to fixate on the wrong thing. Their attention will shift from continually improving to trying to pleasing you. When this happens real leadership and change is no longer possible.

As you go through your week ahead, just simply notice your language throughout the week. How many times do you hear yourself thinking or saying something evaluative? Then, start shifting your language to seeing it as just the way it is.

If this is just the way it is, what choice are you going to make? Leadership is your ability to respond to what happens. I think you’ll find your responses far more powerful when you’re not evaluating.

For me, I’m going to enjoy my commute and the time it gives me to be with my thoughts, listen to another eBook or just people watch. How is that a bad thing?